These Jordanian Startups are Leading an
“I’ve been developing games since I was nine years old,” Nour Khrais tells SBS, as he shows us around the Jordan Gaming Lab in Amman.
The brightly coloured space is filled with PC and Mac computers and hip furniture where young people can come to design and develop their own video games.
Khrais is the chairman of the Jordan Gaming Lab and says that when he first came up with the idea of an incubator for the next generation of game producers, people thought he was crazy.
“It was a big joke at the time,” he says. “Convincing the Jordanian families and fathers who worked hard on their kids and invested in their education, for them to go into video games [was difficult].”
According to Khrais, Jordanians have a natural aptitude for game producing.
“We conducted a study in 2011 with Sho Sato, a Japanese market analyst, and found that Jordanians are gamers by nature. The games come out from stories and we have a lot of storytellers in Jordan.”
The appetite for games in Jordan is strong too. Seventy per cent of Jordan’s population is under 30, the main demographic for video game players.
The need for more Arabic content games
Less than one per cent of online content is in Arabic, despite the fact that 4.5 per cent of the world’s population are native Arabic speakers.
Khrais, who founded the first mobile game company in the Middle East in 2003, Maysalward, says that Jordan is playing a major role in creating more games with Arabic content.
“It was funny, I sat down with His Majesty [King Abdullah II] in 2011 and he said to me, ‘the future is in mobile games'."
Companies such as Tamatem, Play 3arabi and Na3am are just some of the Jordanian start-ups that are producing games to cater for Arab audiences, as well as licensing international games and publishing them in Arabic.
In Australia, the addition of more Arabic content online would also be welcomed by local gamers.
Lebanese-Australian Elias Aoun grew up speaking Arabic at home. Based in Melbourne, he works in IT at a law firm and is a keen gamer. He enjoys games such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars but says he’s never come across any Arabic games.
“My mum used to play Super Mario Brothers with me when I was younger. It would have been great to have Arabic dialogue boxes available because her Arabic was stronger than her English.”